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Britten: Cello Suites / Daniel Muller-Schott

Britten / Schott
Release Date: 06/28/2011 
Label:  Orfeo   Catalog #: 835111   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Daniel Müller-Schott
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRITTEN Solo Cello Suites: Nos. 1–3 Daniel Müller-Schott (vc) ORFEO C 835 111 A (70:33)

Next to Bach’s six, there are probably no greater challenges to the art of the cello than the three suites for solo cello of Benjamin Britten, even considering those by Hindemith and Reger. Britten had wanted to compose six but died before he could write more than three. No matter; these are major pieces, and it is good to see them coming more into their own with a number of recent recordings of all or some of them.
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We are told that it was hearing Rostropovich play the first Shostakovich cello concerto in 1960 that impelled Britten to write a sonata for him, which they performed the following year, and to write the Cello Symphony in 1963. The three suites followed in 1964, 1967, and 1971. It is customary to grant Rostropovich authority in the performance of the first two suites (he never recorded the third), though he himself had some later reservations about his recording of the first, because he thought he played it so much better later. But these suites have now become the province of young cellists and that’s a good thing.

Daniel Müller-Schott has all the technical skills necessary (a phenomenal pp , for instance). He takes a forthright approach to the first suite. The opening Canto is firmly stated and adumbrates what follows. His performance sounds to me more a matter of statements about than a lyrical exploration of Britten’s voice. On the whole, he seems much more comfortable in the second suite, though the concluding Ciaccona occasionally loses its sense of line. The third suite, however, starts off with a wonderfully caressing Lento, and Müller-Schott is completely engaged with what follows. No recording of Bach’s or Britten’s suites, however good, and this is certainly a good one, can take the place of hearing them live.

This recording is certainly to be recommended and it gets better as it goes on. Müller-Schott has a slightly grainy sound and this fits his approach. He has clearly taken to heart Leonard Bernstein’s view of Britten’s music that “if you really hear it, not just listen to it superficially, you become aware of something very dark.” These are dark recordings, indeed. This is not the only view possible of these suites, however, and I am also much taken with the more lyrical one by Tim Hugh (Naxos), a recording that seems to have slipped past us, and Peter Wispelwey has a recent (2010) live recording of the first suite that is wonderful to hear (Onyx). These are good times for Britten’s response to Bach.

FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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Works on This Recording

Suite for Cello solo no 1, Op. 72 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Daniel Müller-Schott (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; England 
Date of Recording: 07/26/2009 
Venue:  München, Bavaria Musikstudios 
Length: 24 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Suite for Cello solo no 2, Op. 80 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Daniel Müller-Schott (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; England 
Date of Recording: 07/26/2009 
Venue:  München, Bavaria Musikstudios 
Length: 20 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Suite for Cello solo no 3, Op. 87 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Daniel Müller-Schott (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972; England 
Venue:  München, Bavaria Musikstudios 
Length: 17 Minutes 15 Secs. 

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